Originally Published — August 16, 2013
Note: The simplest reading of a text is often the correct reading of a text. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights are no different. The First Amendment may be the most altered and corrupted amendment of them all. This is mainly due to the fact that the general public never reaches their own conclusions for their opinions but rather accepts them on behalf of others they deem wiser than themselves. This is a very dangerous trend and it has only been getting worse with the passing of each day.
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There is an amnesia or kind of pathology in America where the facts of history and truths of our republic have been lost to popular myth, misconception and or misinformation rooted in an unquestioning trust of our academic elite, news media and elected representatives. One of the greatest losses to individual freedom is the collective belief that the federal government is the all powerful supreme level of government that rules over us and the states in which we live with dictatorial powers. This idea could not be further from the truth. Take for example our Bill of Rights and the First Amendment to the Constitution. It reads:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
So brief and so plain. How can such simplicity be so corrupted? The plain truth can be found in James Madison’s Federalist No. 45 regarding the distinction between the federal government’s “few and defined” powers and those numerous and indefinite held by the states and the people:
“The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.”
The plainest way to read the First Amendment would be in six easy to understand sentences.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.
Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion.
Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech.
Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of the press.
Congress shall make no law abridging the right of the people peaceably to assemble.
Congress shall make no law abridging the right of the people to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
And what we find when we are done reading is that there is one common threat to it all, Congress shall not do these things. It is clear that these personal liberties are reserved to the states themselves. To be decided by the people themselves, not the bureaucrats in Washington DC who love to play around with liberty, handcuffing the states, controlling the levers of power and ruling over the people.
David is a perpetual student of religion, politics and American history. He lives in Southern California with his wife and their three children. Writer, thinker, speaker, blogger, he is the author of many articles as well as the book, The Conservative Directory – The Little Black Book of the Cultural Counter Revolution (1994). The book was honored with praise from Charlton Heston, Bay Buchanan, Joseph Farah among many others. You can follow him on Twitter @cogitarus. He’s available for speaking engagements upon request.